Key Takeaway: Amidst all the technological innovations and global connectedness around us, we tend to fall into the traps of consumerism and materialism, which are manifestations of worldliness, a tool by the devil to lure us away from God. We ought to live simple lives and let go of worldly joys in favor of true joy found in God and His will.
The latest high-end smartphone. A high-performance sports car. An expensive pair of iconic sneakers or basketball shoes.
All very “prestigious” (or status symbols), all very costly.
The first may be replaced in six months. The second may fuel road rage from accidents or simple recklessness from hubris. The third may not even be used so much.
Do we really want that?
Technology and globalization today have far- and wide-reaching benefits. Innovations abound here and there so much that innovation is crucial for survival today. Creative freedom has made the marketplace grow a hundredfold from what it was several or so decades ago. Current income inequality and poverty notwithstanding, humanity in general has become steadily wealthier over the centuries, allowing more and more people access to goods and services they would never have dreamed of. All thanks to technology and globalization.
But with all these achievements by humanity come unpleasant side-effects. We get drawn in into consumerism, made even more irresistible by annoyingly effective, perhaps shrewd, marketing by companies here and there who may care to some degree about their stakeholders but may mostly care most about their shareholders by taking advantage of – or creating – the demand in their market. To a certain extent, this is good, as both consumer and business benefit. But consuming for its own sake, and making money for its own sake – there we have a problem. In the rush for the latest or most expensive product, people sometimes stretch themselves beyond normal – only to repeat the process again the following year. It’s exhausting, if you ask me.
And, do we really need those things? Buying a high-end smartphone once to be able to avail of its features for increased connection and productivity is one thing. Replacing it at barely a year old for a marginally better one is another. If the phone needs to be replaced because it is malfunctioning, that is entirely understandable – expected, even. But for the sake of the desire to have the latest and spec-heaviest all the time, I question that.
I have a friend who is very wealthy. However, most of said wealth goes into investment or on food. Except for the occasional splurge on books (my friend and I are notorious bibliophiles), he lives a relatively simple life, consuming for the sake of utility. More on this later, but for now, I want to talk about simple living.
As the son of a carpenter, Jesus actually lived a relatively comfortable middle-class life growing up. However, during His three-year ministry, He lived a simple – but blessed – life, shunning luxuries for the sake of the promotion of His cause: the love of God for humanity. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus said that one “cannot serve God and wealth” (6:24, NASB). To enter the Kingdom of Heaven and thus enjoy eternal life with the Father, Jesus warns against worldliness and the pursuit of wealth for its own sake. Wealth, on the contrary, should be our servant, meaning we should use it in a responsible manner – not let it use us and end up dictating how we run our lives in the process.
In living simply but purposefully, Jesus found true wealth: the joy in serving God, and truly earning His place at the right hand of the Father. As He teaches, we should store our wealth not on earth where they are prone to theft and decay, but in Heaven where they are not prone to such.
Now, in the world we live in today, how do we start accumulating our treasures in heaven?
The keyword lies in the preceding paragraph, and a word I am trying to live out without overusing or misusing: purpose. The very first thing to be done is to repurpose our whole being towards serving God. To trust in His will. To have faith that He will provide for us. To commit to living a life revolved around Christ, and only for God’s greater glory. That is what we must accept and do, first and foremost.
Upon doing so, we will discover what we truly desire, and also be granted the strength to let go of things (the meaning of the word being on so many levels) that we think we want, but are actually earthly obstacles to true happiness. Worldliness, a tool of the devil to lure us away from God, is just that: a lure. An unnecessary distraction that takes up our time and energy, so that when we finally emerge from it (if we do emerge at all), we have neither the time nor the energy for the things that truly matter.
Of course, it is all easier said than done – anything is – but the discussion I will be laying out in the follow-up post should – I hope – prove to be the final shove of encouragement to jump off the cliff of worldly joy and onto the beach of true joy.